After one of the most successful non-championship runs of the last several years, the Houston Rockets officially broke up the band with the January trade of superstar guard James Harden to the Nets.
And GM Rafael Stone has no regrets.
“I feel good about it,” he said to reporters on Monday via Zoom. “I do feel good about it. You do every deal at the moment you do the deal. I would, for sure, 100% do that deal again. You guys don’t have the advantages of knowing everything that I know. Literally no part of me that regrets doing that deal. I have not second guessed it for a moment.”
The Rockets’ return in the four-team, seven-player deal included Victor Oladipo, Rodions Kurucs, three of Brooklyn’s first-round picks (2022, ’24, ’26), one of Cleveland’s (’22, via Milwaukee) and four first-round pick swaps (’21, ’23, ’25, ’27) with Brooklyn. Oladipo was recently traded to the Heat for Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and a 2022 pick swap.
“I think [a reporter] texted me the day after the [Harden] trade, and they said that they would evaluate me in 2027. And I said that was too early — they should do it in 2030. I think we felt at the time that we did the best job for the franchise possible. That’s my job, so I did it. Particularly given the types of things that we got back, yeah, it feels like you can’t possibly know how you did for multiple years — 3, 5 something like that.
“[We think it helped] position us to maybe not have to be bad. There’s some other things we’ve done to help that too, but it’s primarily that deal that’s allowed us to say, ‘Hey, we want to compete on a slightly quicker time frame.’ We’re not going to go down this path of intentionally trying to lose games for years on end.”
As for Oladipo, Stone said that the team realized it wasn’t a fit, and once they did, they began exploring options to move on. They focused on making a deal with upside — Stone noted both Bradley and Olynyk were players the staff had liked from afar ‘for several years’ — which notably opened a slot for Kevin Porter Jr. to work further into the rotation after a strong G League showing following his acquisition from the Cavaliers. He also said he felt the swap with Miami ‘could be material.’